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November 24, 2019 / Congau

Art and Truth

Maybe Art is Truth. Maybe it is, but be careful, we don’t want beautiful words lumped together just to flatter ourselves with the mere sound of deep thought. What would it mean to say that art is truth?

Science claims to express the truth and so does philosophy and religion. “The earth is round”, “I think therefore I am”, “Mohammed is God’s prophet”. The statements may or may not be true, but if they are true, we know what they mean. What does art say that may be true?

Look at a painting, a beautiful painting, look at the Sistine Madonna or Mona Lisa. Where is the potential truth?

The painting somehow speaks to you, doesn’t it? But what does it say? A philosopher can be quoted, but how is a painter’s message to be restated? A science can be explained, and a holy book can be paraphrased, but how can a piece of visual art be repeated except by reproducing the very image? Every art expresses itself in its own language; it can’t be translated into a spoken language.

But is it meaningful to say that something is the truth if it can’t be spoken of?

Great art may elevate the mind to something higher. It may be edifying in the same way as nutritious food is healthy for the body. But it’s not just instrumental to a healthy mind; a work of art is valuable in itself, in that it gives an understanding of something right there and then. Is that the same as Truth?

Art may give right understanding just as science and philosophy, but in a slightly different sense. If we want to grant the lofty word of “Truth” to art, this difference must be kept in mind.

Art is self-sufficient; it doesn’t need additional decoration.

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